Design duo bring dreams to life

Carl D’Aquino and Francine Monaco
are known for making their client’s dreams come true.

The
powerhouse duo behind the New York-based design firm, D’Aquino Monaco, have
lent their magic touch to projects around the world, creating captivating
spaces full of beauty, warmth and charm.

So,
when Michael Ryan, owner and developer of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman,
wanted to bring his vision for his new residential development to life, he
turned to D’Aquino Monaco.

That
development was Secret Harbour, the exclusive waterfront village at the heart
of Dragon Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s burgeoning community.

“It
is an amazing project,” Carl says, “and it has been an extraordinary
experience.”

“Being
involved in a project from the birth of an idea through the realisation of a
place is the thrill of architecture,” Francine adds.

Carl
and Francine’s connection to Grand Cayman was established with Silver Rain, a
La Prairie spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. D’Aquino Monaco was enlisted
to create La Prairie’s first spa, using only the brand’s signature packaging as
inspiration. It was a new direction for Carl and Francine, but one they
undertook with relish.

“Silver
Rain was the very first spa we ever designed,” explains Carl, who is the
interior designer to Francine’s architect. “We loved taking the La Prairie
brand and transplanting this Swiss company to the Caribbean.”

Carl and Francine’s unique design
and unparalleled attention to detail captured the glamour of La Prairie and
cemented D’Aquino Monaco’s relationship with the company. After their work on
Silver Rain, Carl and Francine were asked to design La Prairie’s executive
offices in New York City. For the experienced team, it was a feather in their
cap.

Yet
the story of D’Aquino Monaco begins 15 years ago, when Francine joined Carl’s
fledgling design firm. Although a graduate of the School of Architecture in New
York City, Carl at the time was concentrated largely on textiles and fabrics.

“I
fell in love with interiors as an architectural designer,” Carl explains with a
laugh.

Francine
remained devoted to her architectural impulses. She worked for the in-house
design department of the Guggenheim Museum before establishing D’Aquino Monaco
with Carl in 1997. The partnership between Carl and Francine enabled the
business to expand into a comprehensive architectural and design firm.

Since
that time, D’Aquino Monaco’s body of work has shown remarkable depth. In 2007,
Carl and Francine were inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame, an
accolade that placed the duo among the top echelon of designers in the world.

“The
Hall of Fame was an experience that was larger than life and simply wonderful,”
Francine enthuses.

Yet,
there are no clashes of ego here. The successful collaboration between Carl and
Francine lies in their mutual admiration and differing approaches to the design
process. She is the yin to his yang.

“Carl
and I realised, after sharing stories of various projects, that we have shared
ideals from different points of view,” Francine says of their decision to found
D’Aquino Monaco. “This creates a very good opportunity for a partnership, with
opposite strengths and shared respect.”

“Francine
knows how to get to the core of a project,” Carl concurs. “She can look at the
foundation of a project and just get it. I can be more of a dreamer. You need
to meet someone in the middle and that’s why this works.”

Whether
a project is residential or commercial, Carl and Francine believe it is
essential to establish a strong dialogue with the client. Carl says he and
Francine approach every task with a fresh view and pride themselves on their
ability to push the boundaries of creativity.

“We
are not cookie cutter designers, every project is different,” Carl says. “For
us, a residential project is a very exciting process to be involved in. We have
to understand who you are as a family. Our work is very client driven. The more
we know about you, the better.”

Francine
is inspired by D’Aquino Monaco’s capacity to transform a client’s home, and
inevitably, their life.

“In
either residential or commercial projects, I enjoy providing people the
opportunity to see the potential of their world in a new way,” Francine says.
“This is my inspiration.”

Or,
as Carl explains, “We have really affected people’s lives”.

D’Aquino
Monaco’s relationship with The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman was an organic
progression following the success of Silver Rain.

“Secret
Harbour was born from a desire to discover something hidden,” Francine says.
“It’s the gem inside the rock.”

“The
design for Secret Harbour was based on Michael’s travels, when he took a year
off and travelled around the world by boat with his family,” Carl continues.
“It’s an exciting concept, the idea that you can come by boat and experience
this inner, hidden cove.”

Francine
loved the process of bringing Michael’s concept to life using global influences
set against a backdrop of Cayman. However, Carl and Francine have transformed
the West Indian aesthetic from its kitschy past and created a fresh take on
this traditional style. As such, Secret Harbour features two collections –
Contemporary British Colonial and Urban Loft.

“[The collections] are Francine and mine’s take on the
traditional British Colonial style of the Caribbean,” Carl says. “But we’ve
updated it in the textures and the materials.”

From the architecture to the interior design, Carl and
Francine meticulously conceived every element of Secret Harbour. The result is
a sophisticated and luxurious residence that captures the beauty of the Cayman
Islands.

“Every project has its own identity, from the glass of
Silver Rain, to the textures of Secret Harbour, to the glamour of New York, to
the drama of Palm Beach,” Carl says. “Our goal and our dream are to personalise
every space.”

With Secret Harbour set to transform the concept of luxury
living in the Cayman Islands, will the collaboration between D’Aquino Monaco
and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman continue to grow?

“Absolutely,” Carl says. “It has been very inspiring
working with Michael. It will be an ongoing relationship.” 

  

Being involved in a project from the birth of an idea
through the realisation of a place is the thrill of architecture
 

Design Duo

D’Aquino and Monaco